I have never paid more attention to milestones than I have since losing my wife. I’m on the cusp of 18 months without her, and it hit me recently that I am in a much different place than I was 18 months ago. I recently had this discussion with my grief counselor. I have been with her for over a year, meeting bi-weekly. She is an excellent judge of my progress—my metamorphosis. Our meetings are much different than they were this time last year when I was in the middle of the tempest of grief.
The conversation focused on what I have learned since losing Janice. So we discussed what is different now. Here are some of the high points. You may recognize some of them.
Grief is fluid. Every day is different in its’ own way. Sure, the common thread of sadness permeates each day, but change is happening–healthy change. Each week is a bit different. My emotions are more in check. I have some joy again. And that changes my outlook on my future on a day-to-day basis.
My attitude can change now at a moment’s notice. Like many of you, the countless triggers in my life can emotionally hijack me and set me back for hours. That includes certain music, movies, places, etc. For example, my wife and I loved parks. St Louis abounds in parks. Two excellent ones are near my home. We would drive through them on a whim and often picnic in each. When she had her strokes in 2019, I could not bear to visit these parks. Her death only made that worse. A couple of days ago, though, I drove through each of them with her former caregiver. I enjoyed the trip. I had lots of fond memories and could discuss them openly and happily. A week ago, that could never have happened.
An active social life is excellent therapy. In the past nine months, I have begun to engage with groups of like-minded people who are fun to be around. These groups vary from intellectual discussion groups to meet-ups of “over 55” singles to a St Louis-area travel group—all of which meet regularly. I’ve done as my older son once suggested to me; I’ve built a new tribe. My travel group will cruise the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg in June. We meet regularly for potluck dinners and to get to know each other before our trip.
My faith has never been stronger, yet my interest in the church is waning. This is a strange phenomenon for me. I haven’t reconciled it all yet. That story is much too long for today’s column. I’m a spiritual work in progress.
Dating all of a sudden appeals to me. I didn’t see that coming. But I have to admit that I miss female companionship in all its flavors. No one in my life could ever measure up to my angel of 51 years, but companionship with a like-minded lady with whom I could spend regular time and even travel (a goal of mine) all of a sudden is attractive to me. I am going slowly in this regard but I am definitely headed in that direction. However, one thing that remains the same is my commitment not to remarry.
My regular readers here are aware that I am a very active hospice volunteer ministering to men who are caregivers and widowers. I also took on the role of co-facilitating a grief support group sponsored by the hospice I support, and I minister directly to hospice patients who are veterans. All of this has been even more therapeutic for me than for those I serve. Finding a purpose in my life has made all the difference.
I have forgiven all of the “friends” my wife and had who have simply vanished since her death. They have their reasons, and I understand. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but bitterness over this serves no purpose. I know many of you have experienced this for yourselves. We must not take it personally. This makes “finding a new tribe” even more critical. That tactic has worked for me.
These are the major points on my list. It’s an excellent question to ask yourself: What have you learned since the death of your spouse? I welcome your comments here, as others would benefit from hearing what you say. After all, we’re “In This Together.”
Michael Burroughs is the author of Moving Mountains and Before Onboarding, both available on Amazon.com. He lives in St Louis, Missouri.
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